If you are driving along Interstate 77 near the New River, you may have noticed a single stone tower atop the hillside to your east. While modern Interstate traffic flies by, this over 200-year-old, 75-foot-tall stone tower was used in the early 19th century to provide ammunition for local settlers.
The limestone tower, known as the Jackson's Ferry Shot Tower, is the centerpiece of Virginia's Shot Tower State Historical Park. Built in 1807, the shot tower is a combination of a 75-foot tower and a 75-foot vertical shaft into the cliffs overlooking the Neuse River. Lead shot was manufactured here for 32 years, from 1807 to 1839.
|The location of where a kettle full of cool water would catch the falling hot spheres of lead shot.|
To make the shot, lead from nearby mines was melted in a kettle at the top of the tower. Then, it would be poured through a sieve, dropping 150 feet into a kettle full of cold water. This process, and the size of the sieve, would create the spherical shape of the shot. The shot would then be sold to local merchants.
The tower was restored and opened to the public in 1968. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the shot tower a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1981.
|Interstate 77 rolls through the Virginia countryside new Shot Tower State Historical Park. The park is easily accessible from the Interstate via Exit 24.|
Shot Tower Historical State Park is a small (10 acres) park. However, it provides access to the New River Trail State Park and offers great views of the rolling countryside and the New River. The park is open from dawn to dusk - and sometimes the tower is open to explore the inside. Although there is no charge to visit the park, a requested parking fee of $7 can be made via Venmo or in cash through a collection box.
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